New Year is looking pretty good for those of us who follow Liverpool Football Club. We are currently sitting pretty, several points clear at the top of the Premier League table. I am, of course, writing this before our big clash with Man City tonight. We are now either 9 points ahead of our nearest rival, with Man City falling further behind, or our lead has now dropped to four points.
Anyway, I came across this article in the Guardian. It is an piece heralding one of the unsung heroes of the LFC squad. Whilst recognising that Liverpool have yet to win the title, the article states:
In every title-winning team there is a player whose crucial contribution is largely overlooked by the wider public. A subtle operator among the standout performers who generates few headlines and even fewer accolades. But the fans love him, as does the manager, because they know without him there would be no success, no glory, no shiny silver trophy in the middle of May.
I think this is essentially true. The goal-scoring, glory-boy forwards often generate the headlines, and there is often a marauding midfielder who catches the eye and propels the team forward who gets a fair few headlines, but rarely are full-backs or defensive midfielders recognised for their contribution. But there can be no doubt that without them, the team would not be pushing for trophies.
Whatever your thoughts on Liverpool, or whether you think Georginio Wijnaldum is the overlooked genius the article claims, I was set to thinking that the same dynamic is true in the ministry. Very often the pastor is seen (inside and outside the church) as the one around whom much ministry revolves and from whom ministry success emanates. But, leaving aside the theological considerations that it is the Lord who gives the increase and success is God’s doing alone, it is certainly true that there are people who are often overlooked in the work of the church without whom ministry would all but grind to a halt.
There are folks who faithfully turn up to stuff, who chat with visitors, who serve in areas nobody notices and who just do little things that will never be seen. These are not exactly the meat and potatoes of ministry – the things without which ministry can’t happen at all – but without these people doing the things they do, a lot of stuff would either stop altogether or end up being that much less good. These are your ministry Georginio Wijnaldums.
Sure, if these guys weren’t there, the preaching would carry on and you might make a credible fist of being a church. But these guys are essential to making your ministry function. They may not be the guys up front who are ever likely to gain a lot of glory and plaudits but you can bet your bottom dollar if you don’t value them, they will leave for pastures new and – though you might not have noticed them while they were with you – the hole they leave will be noticeable and cannot do other than effect the overall ministry in your church.
At the moment, I am encouraged that my football team sits atop of the league. I am similarly encouraged that my church is in a fruitful period and is bombing on in a number of ways. But I am also painfully conscious that if the Georginio Wijnaldums are so overlooked that they decide to move elsewhere, my team will not be pushing for the title and my church may find itself considerably less fruitful. Many a football manager has come undone by selling on players deemed to make a minor contribution and their teams have fallen apart. Many a church has come undone by happily waving goodbye to vital members of the body who were deemed of minimal value.
If there is a lesson to be learnt, I suppose it is this: don’t consistently, and excluively, make heroes of the upfront, seen dudes in ministry. Recognise the unseen contribution, the soft skills and those who are good at getting on with the unfrilly nitty-gritty of church life and make sure they know they are valued. You may not fully grasp the contribution one of your members makes until it is too late.